NJ rabbi arrested for violating social distancing


(JTA) – An Orthodox rabbi in Lakewood, New Jersey, who is suing his state’s governor over restrictions on gatherings was arrested late Monday night for holding one.

Rabbi Yisrael Knopfler was charged with resisting arrest, obstructing the law and violating the New Jersey governor’s executive order banning gatherings, according to the Asbury Park Press

The arrest came after police broke up an event that Knopfler organized on Lag B’Omer, a minor holiday commemorating the end of a historic plague. Public celebrations, which typically include bonfires and concerts, were prohibited this year because of the current plague. But some people, frustrated by restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of disease, went ahead with gatherings nonetheless.

A video of Knopfler’s arrest was posted on FAA, a whistleblower Facebook page that focuses on the Orthodox community. It shows the police arresting the rabbi while a crowd shouts at the police, calling them “Nazis,” “Gestapo” and “anti-Semites.”

Last week, Knopfler joined another New Jersey clergy member, a Christian reverend, in a lawsuit challenging Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order barring gatherings of any size. If some essential businesses can stay open with adjustments, the lawsuit argues, houses of worship should be allowed to do the same. That lawsuit includes an account of an April gathering at Knopfler’s synagogue that was dispersed by police, according to the Asbury Park Press.

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