Skip To Content

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Fast Forward

A rabbi said shutdown rules violate his religious freedom. Police arrested him for hosting a bonfire.

Police in Lakewood, N.J. arrested an Orthodox rabbi for violating state shutdown and distancing rules, as well as obstruction of justice and resisting arrest, after he hosted a bonfire for the Jewish holiday Lag B’Omer on Monday night.

The rabbi, Yisrael Knopfler, is suing the state over the shutdown rules, which he claim violate his constitutional right to religious freedom.

According to the Orthodox media outlet Vos Iz Neias, the arrest was violent, with Knopfler allegedly assaulting a police officer during the course of the arrest as bystanders yelled at the police, calling them “Nazis” and “gestapo.”

The outlet included a video that purportedly showed the arrest.

Knopfler joined a Catholic priest in suing Gov. Phil Murphy earlier this month for including houses of worship in the state’s rules that limit which establishments can be open. Knopfler argued that synagogues could accommodate distancing requirements and remain open.

“Governor Murphy’s Executive Order 107 has drastically interfered in the practice of my Jewish faith,” Knopfler said in the filing, according to the Asbury Park Press. Knopfler, who leads a small synagogue with 50 worshippers, also said that police are frequently parked outside of his synagogue, “clearly surveilling us to look for violations of Order 107.”

Knopfler’s arrest came less than a week after the suit was filed.

Knopfler sits on a rabbinical court in Lakewood, the Beis Din Tzedek, according to public records.

Ari Feldman is a staff writer at the Forward. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @aefeldman


Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.