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Executive Articles Editor, NYC Law Review 2009 – 2010
Eli.Federman@Gmail.com Dear Fellow Community Members of Crown Heights and Beth Din of Crown Heights: This letter is a public response to a Psak Din (i.e., Proclamation) issued by the Beth Din of Crown Heights on Chof Daled Kislev 2010 that forbids members of the community from filing grievances against the police or even writing about or speaking to the media about allegations of police wrongdoing, without the Crown Heights Community Councils’ approval. It's deeply saddening that the Rabbis of our community want to require that victims seek their permission before they are allowed to file a complaint or bring police wrongdoing to the public’s attention. That is tantamount to requiring victims of domestic violence to seek their permission before filing a complaint. No one should require permission to file a complaint. Besides the fact that this proclamation violates democratic principles and values as well as victims rights laws and is therefore against Jewish law because Jewish law requires we follow the law of our country, it is demeaning to the victims of police mistreatment. I’m aware of stories about people in our community who were given summons’s and in some cases wrongly arrested for merely talking back to the police. Should these victims need approval to merely file a complaint or defend themselves? As an active member of the community I'm shocked and troubled that Rabbi Osdoba and Schwei would issue a ruling that discourages members of our community from filing complaints against the police. Filing grievances should be encouraged because they provides a vital check and balance against police overreaching - which unfortunately we have seen in both the Jewish and black community of Crown Heights. We need an open and transparent process that will insure accountability, not one that will sweep the issue under the rug. This ruling truly saddens me and is a major setback for our community but does not represent all of our voices. No single Rabbi speaks for the entire community. We do not have a monolithic voice. This is reminiscent of soviet Russia where Jews discouraged each other to speak out because of fear of retaliation. Unfortunately, I think the Rabbi's are acting out of an unfounded fear of police retaliation not democratic notions of transparency, accountability and freedom of speech. Kol Tuv, Eli Federman December 09, 2010