Yesterday, I viewed one of the most vile and despicable videos I’ve ever seen,
and that is saying a lot in the age of WhatsApp, Group chats, and the like.
I viewed a video of Lakewood Police Officers arresting a Rabbi.
That’s right, you read that correctly. Men in uniform making a public arrest of a local Rabbi. Not quite a common occurrence, and jarring to say the least.
But that wasn’t the vile and despicable aspect of the video, and more about the context of the arrest in a moment.
I watched horrified, as a group of presumably members of his Kehillah, many of whom were unmasked, gathered chaotically around this group of officers, taunting and berating these men who were doing their job, enforcing the law; acting quietly, calmly, and professionally, and putting their own health in harms way to protect the very crowd who were verbally attacking them…. from themselves.
Apparently, the several thousand cases (reported and unreported), and nearly 100 Levayos in the town from this dreadful virus were not enough for them. The Lag Ba’omer fire and festivities had to go on. Had to.
This crowd, most of whom were likely born and raised in this town; a town that has been so blessed and privileged.
A town who the Frum community has virtual control over as some would say, or more than significant influence in the towns affairs, would others.
A town where Frum members of the community have served for years in the government, on school boards, planning boards, and are intimately intertwined with all major local decisions made.
The home of largest Yeshiva in the world with familiarity into the state and federal government.
A Police Chief who is literally part of the fabric of the community, and officers, who engage with its citizens, are known to our Shuls, Askanim, school leaders, and even school children, and many in between.
While not drawing ANY justification in the verbal abuse of law enforcement period, let’s put this into context: We aren’t some underprivileged or underserved community who feels threatened or victimized by the authorities and police as some minority communities across the country do. This also isn’t Meah Shearim, where there are unbridgeable ideological differences between the citizens and the government which cause tensions and mutual mistrust to boil over between the two factions.
This is Lakewood, NJ.
The home of the largest Orthodox Jewish community in the Country.
The town where the township sets up crossing guard stations, light towers, and electric billboards on Purim to make traffic flow easier and allow us to celebrate without issue or disturbance.
A town that rearranges the Public Works schedule to accommodate our own unique schedule during the year.
This is the town, that sets up extra patrols over Yomim Tovim to our neighborhoods when many are away to provide extra security and comfort, although they don’t have to.
This is the town that over the 1st day of Pesach this year, incredibly arranged patrol cars to go around neighborhoods who’d experienced a sudden power outage, announcing over the loudspeaker, the Psak of one of the towns leading Poskim on how to deal with an oven that shut off.
You will not see that anywhere in America BUT in THIS town, Lakewood, NJ.
This is the town where police coordinate on every major function, venue and event. Short notice Levaya? No problem. Major Mosad Dinner, massive distribution centers before Yom Tov? They are right there keeping everyone safe and lending a hand.
Involved in community events, crisis, coordinating with Chaveirim, LCSW, Hatzalah? You bet.
It’s also practically unheard of for an arrest to be made for disorderly conduct or other in our community. Simply unheard of. There is a remarkable unheard of cohesion between the townspeople, the township government, and our police force in all matters. Big and small.
So when these officers, who swear an oath to protect and defend, are dispatched to break up an illegal gathering, that is in direct violation of state/federal guidelines and the Governors Executive Orders, and the leader of this venue based on reporting is either non-compliant, belligerent, or even aggressive towards the officers, and they are then compelled to make an arrest, our very own townspeople and members of our very own community scream and yell at them, insulting and mocking them? Is this even possible??
I thought that would be the end and the worst of it, but then the video footage continued. The darkest and most repulsive moment was saved for the end, when the crowd, urged on by the bloviating and abominable, peanut-gallery ringleader, gathered around the patrol car and began to chant and screech some of the dirtiest, most sickening words known in our Faiths lexicon; reserved for the most evil human beings known to mankind, during the most destructive and horrific moments in our history. Gestapo. Nazi. Over and over they screamed in their faces.
10,000 thunderous bellowings of outrage do not even touch the surface of the repulsion and abhorrence of this moment. It would be diminishing and diminutive to even begin to draw lines of distinction here – Between the officers and the words and titles this group of depraved individuals DARED to utter in vain. Words cannot even put it into context.
The respect and admiration for these officers only grew when you watched them, carry-on respectfully, and with minimal aggression to a non-compliant arrestee, without commenting back to the crowd or instigating further.
But above their masked faces and sweaty brows, the streetlights that illuminated their faces, exposed their eyes to the camera, showed a dumbfounded, maybe slightly frightened, and silent befuddled expression in the officers eyes.
“Why are they doing this?”
“Is this what we deserve serving our town and protecting this community?”, they must’ve thought.
I’m sure later than night or early in the morning when they returned home to their families from the night shift and lay their heads on their pillows, the chants and slurs rang through their head over and over. Gestapo. Nazi. The less well-informed of them, perhaps had to Google one of those words, and probably lost his breath when reading about the men who carried that title and the atrocities they committed.
I just hope they also knew, and know, that this crowd was standing on its own. Alone in shameful isolation. Their actions, aggression, and repugnant, disgraceful, abominable behavior was sadly their own and there’s alone. Their repentance for this public disgrace and desecration of God’s name and our people, is between them and their Creator.
The remainder of our great town stands shoulder to shoulder with these officers and the rest of the police force, and praise you for your just and measured actions, supreme efforts, and loyal dedication in keeping our beautiful, diverse, co-existing, mutually respectful town safe, healthy, and secure.
An embarrassed, but proud member of the Jewish Community.