Eli Cohen: “The Gag Order was Issued Largely Due to Police Pressure”

Eli Federman, a local resident, was one of the very few to speak up about the gag order imposed by the Rabonim. His letter was met with a flood of response, both critical and supportive. In a new letter Federman writes that one of those who reached out was Rabbi Eli Cohen, executive director of the CHJCC, and what he had to say was quite surprising.

Eliyahu Federman, Juris Doctor
Executive Articles Editor, NYC Law Review 2009 – 2010

Dear Crown Heights Jewish Community Counsel, Beth Din and fellow members of the community:

I write this public letter to continue the needed debate about the issuing of the edict from the Beth Din on Chof Daled Kislev (December 1) 2010 prohibiting 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 Jewish Community Council’s (CHJCC) approval.

After my first letter was published, I received an outpouring of support from my fellow Crown Heights Community members. I also received some critical comments suggesting that I have no right to issue public letters because “it could cause trouble.”

The CHJCC reached out to me to discuss my letter and concerns. I asked Rabbi Eli Cohen, Executive Director of the CHJCC, why the Rabbis issued the gag order. I was surprised to hear that the order was issued largely as a response to police pressure and feedback regarding a WABC Channel 7 story related to baseless summonses issued to members of our community and negative comments posted online by community members about the police, not Jewish law or real concerns of the Rabbis. In fact, the edict does not even cite Jewish law and I’m told has no basis in Jewish law.

Rabbi Cohen addressed an e-mail to me, in his individual capacity, where he stated that negative online blog comments about the police “is hurting our ability to work with the department; undermining police morale, and making it harder for Simonetti to persuade his beat cops to …[be]… sensible when interacting with our community on matters like traffic stops (especially before Shabbos), double parking, minor criminal violations (like riding on sidewalks or drinking in public), and the like.” Further, Rabbi Cohen stated that the edict was a message to the community that they should “not go to channel 7 — as one young fellow did recently – and say that the police are mistreating us.” (email dated Dec. 11, 2010). In person Rabbi Cohen made it clear that the edict was issued largely because of police concerns regarding critical comments made by community members against the police.

It is deeply disconcerting that the CHJCC and Beth Din would cave in to inappropriate police pressure, but what is more disconcerting is the fact that the police would attempt to pressure the CHJCC to quell the voices of potential victims in our community. The police should not be pressuring community leaders into silencing their constituents and more important community leaders should not acquiesce to police department directives when those directives would interfere with the rights of members of our community.

This proclamation, how and why it was issued, needs to be further discussed since it strikes at the essence of who we are as a community.

Let me know what you think.

Kol Tuv,
Eli Federman


  • 1. tipshim wrote:

    If the inspector of our precinct is more worried about his good name and clean record, than our rights in our community, than we are really tipshim. With all the crime in our neighborhood, let’s change channel 7, to channel 71. That should satisfy everyone.

  • 2. isaac rabinowitz wrote:

    All I can say is “how luckey i am not to be living in crown heights anymore”.. This is not the way i envisioned raising my children.

  • 4. Jack wrote:

    Right on the Money, It is a HUGE problem that we the people have no voice with our elected officials.
    The CHUTZPA of the CHJCC and community leaders to try and quiet the community when we are hurting.
    The police say they are getting bad rap there is a SIMPLE solution START MAKING THE PEOPLE YOU ARE MEANT TO PROTECT FEEL PROTECTED that’s what they are trained to do so DO YOUR JOBS and you will stop getting bad rap from the community.
    C.H.J.C.C. has to send a clear message to the cops, the people who elected you are speaking they may not represent the CHJCC opinion of the police but this is what we the simple people feel.

  • 5. Wikileaks wrote:

    …. and we thought world leaders had problems with Wikileaks. Federman had better be careful, he may end up with Julian Asange lehavdil.

  • 7. Who is in charge of the asylum? wrote:

    I don’t live in CH but I can’t help thinking that their leaders are so ineffectual it hurts just reading about it. Wise Rabbis would never give out such a letter, mainly b/c it is not a psak din, secondly, it’s contents can’t be enforced. Whoever convinced them to write this letter has issues and should be removed from their positions. Leadership does not mean to write “pashkvilin” or create “politics as usual” every time something comes up, but rather to stick out your neck “until the point of mesiras nefesh” to help and improve the lot of your community. Even when it means to disagree with the police dept. It seems to me that Eli Cohen should be removed b/c its time for change in CH.

  • 10. enemies within our ranks wrote:

    Dear Eli Federman, the truth is topsy-turvy:
    Individuals within the community enjoy dealings with the police, and they are working with the police to silence their victims in the community. It is precisely for revealing comments such as this one that they and the police desperately want to silence such websites. Zaki and the other mouths are being used probably without their knowledge…



  • 12. Clarity wrote:

    I think the message from the police is: Don’t hang out our dirty laundry. They would like to keep the community problems, within the community and try to deal with it quietly.

    I see their point. I can also understand where the beth din is coming from. they want to maintain good relations in case we really need something one day, and it’s important to keep them happy.

    This is all true. This would all work if while we were quiet the police treated us nicely (and crime was down). Problem is they don’t. Even while we were silent and tried to keep things quiet, the police acted like children. (of course not all of them, and maybe not even most – but certainly enough). So if they aren’t keeping their end of the deal, it might actually be important for us to show we can, and will do something about it.

    They must keep their end of the deal, otherwise we simply cannon keep ours. It’s in a very small way similar to the peace process in Israel. Arabs can’t carry out terrorist attacks, and then wonder why Israel responds. (Sorry for the extreme example). We simply cannot be the victims anymore.

    The best defense is offense.

  • 13. resident & homeowner who can-t leave wrote:

    What happened to courtesy, professionalism, respect?
    Guys,just do your jobs with integrity, and you will have no need for bogus edicts from the rabbis. Earn the respect. We are waiting to give it to you.

  • 14. Who Seed Watt wrote:

    If what is stated above is true, it is not a problem of our elected officials caving into pressure from the police. Who doesn’t listen to a cop, most of the time, when threatened? They have power. Rather it is a serious case of conspiracy to obstruct justice by those government officials pressuring the CHJCC into attempting to prevent the exercise of our first amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom to petition (file) complaints with appropriate government offices. It is the government and its officials who are prohibited from from interfering with our constitutional rights, not the Beis Din.

    If Eli Cohen feels he is being unduly pressured by government officials to obstruct free speech, I suggest he he take this up with the FBI’s division of civil rights immediately. They take these things seriously.

  • 15. Common Sense wrote:

    Some of you just don’t get it. Your arrogant, narrow views and irresponsible comments are what’s going to destroy you. At first, I thought the ban was ridiculous but now I see some of you really do need to be controlled because you can’t control yourselves.

    I don’t blame the police. Some of you make racist comments, terrible generalizations, call people you don’t know names, and yet, you want these same people you openly criticize to keep you safe? These guys put their lives on the line everyday, they have families and you should be ashamed of yourselves.

    Just because you have the freedom to say whatever you can doesn’t mean you should.

  • 16. McMachshefa wrote:

    Time for a sit in, Boro Park style. Otherwise the blue mafia will use us and divide us.

    This is what I would expect from the police in the old USSR (or from the EY police) not from any police dept in the US.

  • 17. Idea wrote:

    COLlies stinks and ch.info tells the truth (whichever comments I’ve submitted to COLlies wasn’t posted because it failed to meet their ‘Hendel’ political agenda), so if the Federmans use their web expertise to help crownheights.info shore up their share of the chabad news market that would be great! If the radical messianists (chabad.info) and the Messianists lite (collive) control the media, how do you expect sanity’s restoration?

  • 18. Truth wrote:

    It’s a 50/50 situation. Police are partly at fault at times but the repeated ignorant and irresponsible words are now working against the community. Keep saying “schvartzes,” putting down cops and people from the outside. You stand only for yourselves, in the end nobody will stand for you.

    I praise those few who have had rational views and it is unfortunate some of the irresponsible items have made their way online.

  • 19. Do we live in a police state? wrote:

    In a democracy one should be able to criticize the police without fear of collective punishment being visited upon the community. We have a constitutional right to open our mouths and say what we want, and still expect the police to fulfill their duties fairly, if they don’t we should make a communal lawsuit and sue them for discrimination and damages.
    By definition, if we are afraid of the police then we live in a police state, not a democracy.

  • 20. scaredinbrooklyn wrote:

    Let me get this straight. The cop read these comments and see where angry and upset and their reaction is to do a better job? No, their reaction is the be hurt like little children and strike back with meaningless tickets and cold shoulders to our religious circumstances?

    So in turn the “leaders” of the community respond by telling us to stop being mean to the bullies?

    Here is a novel idea, do your jobs and we wont speak badly about you! Or will it take a Jew being shot by an errand bullet for everyone to REALLY get angry …

  • 21. enough is enough wrote:

    I have written to Mr. Federman with my suggestions…and they don’t include backing off from what is clearly a major cause for concern.

    In the last 2 weeks there have been multiple deaths & shootings in Crown Heights. We are under siege, but whom do the police target? Jews. Are we the ones with guns? Are we robbing, raping, & killing? But according to Eli Cohen, we must sit quietly and passively & accept every abuse thrown at us.

    This behavior, orchestrated by the police & carried out by their henchmen the CHJCC, will have devastating effects. It will kill our community; people are looking to leave. The families who will be left will be the ones too scared to object, those who are basically oblivious to the ramifications, or those who are financially stuck here. What kind of a community will we have then?

    We are the laughing stock of the frum world. For all our mega-successes in Shlichus, we can’t organize here, at home. We blindly allow certain bullies to run our lives. Things must change, or Crown Heights as we remember it will be destroyed within 2 years.

  • 22. Disgusted wrote:

    Do not blame Eli Cohen. Blame the ones you..the people of Crown Heights elected. Instead of attempting to make Cohen your fall guy admit and take some responsibility for ignorantly electing officials you are now unhappy with. I somehow think it would not matter who was E.D or who was elected you people just want to b…h!

  • 24. mendel wrote:

    well put mr federman. i wish zaki would have talked to you before he made his very lengthy speech which went on and on and I still didn’t know what hes talking about.

    Our rabbonim –one needs shimush and one needs tashmus.

  • 25. We need the Messia wrote:

    Please bring Rabbi Broin, no matter what the cost. We can Text him. After all he said he will answer texts from the youger people. So I guess if there is more police harrasment we can text him…….OMG wow what do you think he will answer. I know. You are not allowed to text on this issue since we issued the Edict.

    Bottom line this community is going to hell for no reason. Time to start doing things like they do in Williamsburg. When the cops acted like thugs there they were taught a lesson by the satmars.

    So let me summarize.
    1)We are not allowed to critisize the rabonim. They are lemala m’tam vodas
    2)Cops are our friends and even though they are harassing us they are doing it out of love and we should stay quiet. LOL
    3) Zaki Tamir cares more about the style of the scarf around his neck vs the people of crown heights.
    4)When being arrested you should put a yellow star around your arm.
    5) Cohen cares more about saying l’chaim with his meshichist buddies.
    6) We dont need a beis din or a third rabbi since amazingly on a rediculous edict Rabbi’s Shwei and Osdoba finally got united.
    7) CHJCC Is not a true representative of the people but a few crazies


  • 27. Eidim Zoimemim wrote:

    Ich farshtei nisht….

    Zaki Tamir says that this edict was issued by the Rabonim over the Shmira/Shomrim issue? cant they at least get their story straight?

    This story only adds to the purim shpiel.

  • 28. the scoop wrote:

    I heard an unconfirmed report that the source of the issue was a punitive threat by the 71st precinct. I heard that the CHJCC was threatened that if there will be one more bad PR story in the media about the 71st, then as a punitive measure there will be a 90 day freeze on all the CHJCC photo ops with the police. An emergency meeting was thereby convened at Chanina’s home which went until the wee hours of the morning and the conclusive plan was to release the letter on badatz letterhead that they’ve indeed later released.

  • 30. Jack wrote:

    # 7
    I agree. You can’t call yourself a Rov if anyone other than yourself influences your decision making. Get another job if that’s the case. Stand for morals and decency and earn some respect. Respect is given to those who deserve it not to those who demand it.

  • 31. ch resident wrote:

    if the police do not want bad publicity let them earn good publicity that is the only way.
    I understand not everyone can speak in the name of a community or organization but everyone can speak in his own defense or go to the media if he has no help from the police or the CHCC. The rabbonim should have some self respect and some back bone and not cave in.

  • 32. R- Moshe Bogomilsky wrote:

    There is no way R’ Moshe Bogomilsky would have allowed this letter to have gone out if he was on the B”D

  • 34. Bumblimg incompetents wrote:

    That CHCC even thinks that that they could get awqay with something like this in the 21st century shows how incompetent and out of touch with realitty they are. Instead of doing their job in cultivating positive relations between the community and the police (which they obviously have no inkling on how to accomplish)–forbid people to talk about the problem…. Even in Russia they realized 20 years ago that that system doen’t work anymore in today’s world.

  • 35. Mesira Still goes On wrote:


  • 37. Chaim L. wrote:

    I was put in handcuffs (it took two days for the marks to come off my arm) and halled off to the 71th, for calling the police when blacks were trying to start a riot outside my house, and the Community Council was nowhere to be seen. I called them and they did nothing. They seem to be much more interested in Dinners and photo ops then in defending the community. Where is the leadership? I applaud Federman for his courageous stand. Do we have to wait for another pogram, or crystalnacht before we start standing up for ourselves? What we do effects Yidden everywhere. Leaders care about their people, they stand up like Yehuda to Yosef and get the job done.

  • 38. If this is true... wrote:

    You should do proper investigating and if all that you said is true then you should send it to Channel 7 it should mark the end of Mr Simmonetti.

  • 40. Ariyeh Leib Segall wrote:

    A suggestion to CHJCC, the Rabbonim & 71st Pct blog readers and CO’s:
    If you can’t stand the heat – stay out of the Kitchen !!!
    CHJCC seems to be caving in to pressure similar to what Bibi has done with Obama …!!
    the Rabbnim seem to hide their heads in the sand with regard to all that is happening in the community in Ruchnius as well as Gashmius !!!!
    71st Pct seem to think that by bullying the Jews into silence — their problem of out of control crime within their Patrol command will go away…
    Well… Mr Simonetti & Co. — we will not submit to Mafia like tactics and we will not revert to being Ghetto Jews
    — Never Again !!!!

  • 41. Timidity is not the answer wrote:

    I understand that the CHJJC is in a very delicate position in a neighborhood like this but people in a democratic country have no reason to feel scared enough to cave in to threats. It’s like the situation in Israel where showing weakness and fear has always been counterproductive.

  • 43. Fiddler on the Roof wrote:

    In the movie Fiddler on the Roof the Poice in charge of Anatevka came to Tevya and said “ I really like you so I am going to tell you about the upcoming pogrom that will happen’.”
    It’s only because we like you that we will allow the pogrom to happen?

    Sounds like our poilice of our neighborhood! Do you think the leaders of Williamsburg would tolerate this? How about Boro Park? Forget them … do you think the “african Americans’ would tolerate a pogrom of tickets, and bullying in Bed Stye if they heard of this pressure?

    CH … we are divided by your rabbonim, we are divided by Mishichists, and now we are divided and unprotected by the fruits of our labor!

    If you beleive our leaders … the cops really love us, but they JUST HAVE TO ALLOWC ERTAIN THINGS!

    Let’s get back to Tradition!

  • 44. zakie ur naive wrote:

    it plain words Zakie is vey naive. also for him to say forget the pass is a joke. first ask forgivness from Shomrim 6 take resposblity that the same chnine and shmira n co where the once behind the Meserah. so as long as you dont face it there wont be silant.

  • 45. Why this is happening wrote:

    the police are upset when people voice their concerns in a public forum. However, some of their own actions have given the criminals a message that made their own job harder and actually precipitated more crime in the neighborhood. There are only so many times police can support criminals and show antagonism and a lack of professional concern toward the men and women and children of the community, before the criminals get the tacit message that they have the green light.

  • 46. Freezing in Montreal wrote:

    Happy to say that I left Crown Heights and now live in freezing Montreal. I’ll gladly take -30 and 15 inches of snow over this chaotic life in CH.

  • 47. Shame on COLLive! wrote:

    I wrote the following comment on COLLIVE (I am unaffiliated with Shomrim or Shmira) and they didn’t publish it! Any comment that doesn’t fit their agenda they ignore.

    Title: Zaki Come Clean.

    Zaki, you write about the shomrim shmira issue, but that is not really the main issue here. What have you done in response to the yidden being victimized by the police?

    When incidents (such as the bochurim on the sidewalk, or the woman with the video that went ignored) come to your attention, your response has been, “We can’t say anything to the police as it will ruin our relations with them”.

    Unfortunately, this has been the attitude of most CHJCC members up until now. This has only advertised weakness and been exploited by the police to further bully us by ignoring crimes against us and prosecuting us for innocent actions.

    If you want the privilige to represent us, then be open with us as to exactly what you are doing to stand up for us and protect us.

    The community are very concerned about this attitude of putting up with abuse because of weak self image and weak jewish pride (“we don’t want to ruin our relations with the police”). This is not what you were elected for. If you can’t do it because of the pressure, then leave and let someone else do it.

  • 50. go to Rabbanim wrote:

    While we may not agree with what the Rabbanim did, we should still have respect for the Rabbanim of the community and follow what they say. This community needs Shalom and it can be achieved better if we follow what the Rabbonim say. A group of people should get together and speak to the Rabbanim about their concerns regarding the edict. By posting disagreement on line, we are doing just what the letter says-further weakening achdus in the community.

  • 51. Where are the leaders for us? wrote:

    My friend has been falsely arrested by his lying EX at least half a dozen times in 2 years! If cops were honest he would have NEVER been arrested! In fact they were accused by a reputable community leader of taking ‘favors’ to arrest him! We are only scraping the surface how corrupt this precinct and department is!

  • 52. no-brainer! wrote:

    Time for a new election to immediately fill third position. I cannot vote because I’m a woman, but Rabbi Bogolomisky seems like the no-brainer choice. I cannot understand why the residents of CH couldn’t clearly see that. Guess he’s not bravado enough to sweep them off their feet. He seems like the real thing to me, genuine with substantial foundation in everything we need to move forward with dignity. Better get with it soon CH,or this place will evolve into a real ghost town–with only the Rebbe Moshiach nut cases running around chanting and missing the point that Hashem is the real King of the world, and maybe He doesn’t like the delusional avodazara. Love Yiddishkeit-hate cults!

  • 53. henya laine wrote:

    a policeman stopped and ticketed my husband for not having insurance on the car. My husband told him that we have an insured car and if he wants tio see it it is in the glove compartment. The officer just told him to fight it in court. Of course it was dismissed but it took time away from work because he had to appear in court.We were shocked that this can happen here in our neighborhood.


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