NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Members of Brooklyn’s orthodox Jewish community were angered Monday after a rabbi was given a ticket for jaywalking and then subjected to what they say was insensitive treatment by a police officer.
Rabbi Sholom Emert and his wife are upset not so much that he got a ticket for jaywalking on a busy avenue in Midwood, Brooklyn. But rather, he said, that the police officer forced him to violate the traditions of his Orthodox Jewish faith.
“This officer did not understand my religious life,” Rabbi Emert told CBS 2’s John Metaxas.
Rabbi Emert goes to a synagogue on Avenue M to pray three times a day. On Friday evening he was coming home, as he does every Sabbath, on foot.
While crossing Kings Highway, the light turned and he was stuck.
“And he stopped traffic and he pulled me to the side, right over there,” Rabbi Emert told Metaxas.
The officer began to issue a summons for jaywalking and demanded identification.
“I told him I’m a Sabbath observer. I don’t have ID on me. I live down the block. You can come to my house and I’ll give you my ID. So he said if you have no ID we have to take you to the precinct,” Rabbi Emert said.
After 15 minutes of back and forth, Rabbi Emert said the officer told him to write his name down instead or face arrest.
“Finally I was forced to write my name down on the Sabbath, which is something that is not allowed in the Jewish community,” Rabbi Emert said.
Already the incident is reverberating through the Orthodox community.
“If you are an Orthodox Jew and you follow the rules, you do not carry on the Sabbath. You don’t carry a wallet, keys, money,” said Assemblyman Dov Hikind, D-Brooklyn.
Civil rights attorney Norman Siegel said there is no requirement in the United States to carry identification, but: “If you break the law, you have to have ID so the summons can be filled out.”
But many here said the officer went too far.
“The only thing the policeman should’ve done is instead of writing a ticket, advise him of the dangers and give him a warning,” resident Tony Ross said.
“They should have a talk with this cop to brief him about the Jewish community. I’m sure he’s been around long enough to see there’s plenty of Jews around here,” said Shira Emert, the rabbi’s wife.
The sentiment here seems to be this could have been handled better.
An NYPD spokesman said the Department is looking into the incident. Rabbi Emert has a court date in February.