Brooklyn Rabbi Ordered Jailed For Refusing To Testify

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Los Angeles – An orthodox rabbi who refused to testify before a federal grand jury, saying his religious beliefs prohibit informing on fellow Jews, was ordered jailed Friday by a District Court judge for contempt of court.

Moshe Zigelman, a 64-year-old Hasidic rabbi, was ordered to report Wednesday to a federal detention center in Brooklyn. Until he chooses to testify, he will remain behind bars up to a maximum of 18 months, according to federal prosecutors
Zigelman has previously pleaded guilty and served a prison sentence for his role in a tax-evasion scheme by his Brooklyn-based orthodox sect, Spinka.

After his release, he was subpoenaed to testify before a Los Angeles grand jury continuing its probe into the scheme.

Citing an ancient Jewish principle, Zigelman refused to testify, telling a federal judge forcefully during a contempt hearing through a Yiddish interpreter: “Because the transgression of mesira is so dire, my mind won’t change until I die.”

The rabbi had asked that he be allowed to enter custody after observing Passover, in April. Prosecutors objected, saying March will mark one year since Zigelman was first called to testify and additional delays will require extensions to the grand jury’s term of service.

Morrow ordered him to surrender to the prison March 21.

(Source: LA TIMES)

30 COMMENTS

  1. He should get himself a new lawyer, a rabbi and priest are not allowed to be forced to testify, as there is a privilege of confidentiality much as lawyer client privilege were a lawyer cant testify against a client. This is the reason he should have given not religion

  2. Why not tell them he doesnt remember? If he is concerned about honesty im sure there are pills he could take to make his short term memory more fuzzy.

  3. He is not being asked to testify about information he gained in his capacity as rabbi. He is being asked for more information about a tax evasion scheme that he and others were allegdly (for the others) involved in.

  4. Pleading the 5th can only be done in order to prevent self-incrimination. As he has already admitted to his crimes and served time, he can’t plead it any longer. For the same reason “forgetting” won’t help either, and encouraging him to take pills to forget it encouraging more lies about this. How can you call him a true tzaddik after what he did already and was convicted of?

  5. #1 The first amendment gives one the right to not incriminate one’s self. It does not allow one to not testify against someone else.

  6. Farrocks: Twisted, is what its called. He wasnt a Tzaddik when he failed to pay his taxes (chillul Hashem) and he isn’t a Tzaddik when he is being thrown in to jail because he is “taking the fall” for someone else (probably the Rebbe) One massive Chillul Hashem. Don’t get it confused.

  7. The fifth amendment only helps for self incrimination it doesn’t give someone a right to not testify about a crime he has knowledge about. So the only option for a ben torah is to serve jail time till they realize your not going to testify under any cercimstance and they will just drop the case.

  8. It’s nice to see positive comments of yes a real ehrliche Yid whom we know for many years. Sacrilege is a very bitter person who obviously is one that does not fargin.
    What is not mentioned, is the person who got all these people in trouble inorder to get himself(also a frum Yid) out of trouble. There is more to this whole story that is not mentioned here and i for one will not post it. Let’s continue to daven for this honest person and let’s have him in mind by Matir Assurim together with Mr. Rubashkin.
    And to Sacrilege, i wonder what we would find on you should we do a search on you,but doing teshuva is never too late.

  9. Smart1: Exactly. Therefore this tzadik gamur will get much schar for allowing himself to be jailed, rather than violate the issur gamur (that one is required to be moser nefesh for, according to Torah law) against mesira. He has a truly enviable position. Many tzadikim have said they would love the opportunity to be moser nefesh.

  10. Farrocks, if you really want to go to jail for not being mesira, you just have to get involved in something illegal with some fellow Jews.

  11. There has been a continuous effort on behalf of the prosecutors for many many many years. They would have loved to nail the Spinka Rebbe over this, but they couldn’t so they are doing deep sea fishing to try & get someone to be moysir.

    If they would only go after the yishmaelim yemach sh’mom and the sh’choyrim the same way, it would be nice.

  12. This really isn’t fair. He presumably could have gotten a lower sentence earlier, by agreeing to testify. But he didn’t, and served the sentence. Now, they make him go to jail again for not testifying, when in a way he already served that extra time for not testifying.

  13. It sounds that this man has made some mistakes in life before, for which he admitted guilt (first step of Tshuva), and served a jail time. He is being Moiser Nefesh not to do Mesirah. What a strong person!

  14. Sacrilege, I am with you on this one. This is not Czarist Russia. Jews are not singeled out for persecution. Our rights are protected in Jail where kosher food is served and in some even minyanim are held. Furthermore Tax evasion can arguably be a case of meitzar es harabim and qualify as an instance where one would be allowed to testify. Some people tend to be very machmir on mesirah yet at the same time unfortunatley have no problem stealing, lying and violating dinah dmalchusa. These people have no respect for our great country.

  15. Going to jail for eighteen months so as not to be over an issur is a trully holy deed. End of story. What this man may have done in the past holds no bearing. End of story. The haters are evil people that hate Hashem and the people who do his will. One more time, END OF STORY!

  16. Nebech for you amaratzim

    (1) if you are right about mesirah, there can be no greater mesirah than for ones self– so how did this tzaddik plead guilty???

    (2) what about all the victims of the scheme that the tzadikk pleaded guilty too– has he paid back k’afel??

    (3) none of you understand the halacha of mesirah– this false tzidkuss is nothing more than a great chilul hashem- so says the Shulchan Aruch (here’s a link http://www.torahweb.org/mesirah/) and MOST IMPORTANT you are participating and creating a further chilul hashem by you neged torah comments

    please do tshuva and then return here for torah quality comments

  17. I would like to point out several things:
    1. The 5th amendment to the US Constitution is only a right to not incriminate oneself. Not to testify about others.
    2. Clergy privilege applies only to information obtained in his capacity as clergy and given in the confidence that he is clergy.
    3. The 1st amendment is freedom of speech and religion not the right to remain silent.
    4. The right to remain silent can be bypassed with an offer of immunity.
    5. According to most poskim there is no Mesirah when testifying in US courts.

    My I recommend to everyone who misunderstands the US constitution, to read it through a couple of times. Maybe as a shabbos afternoon book or even as bathroom reading. I might help you understand the country that is supporting so many learning in Kollel by providing for welfare and medicaid checks. You can pick up copies of the constitution for free at your local library or elected officials office.

    Ignorance is no excuse.

  18. @Azny Is this some sort of Purim joke? The biggest mesira is pleading guilty?!? Mesira by definetion is giving someone else over to the government. Kafel?!? If you knew anything about anything, you would know that there is no kefel today. On your third point, I can’t read your link, but based on the emptiness that you’ve written, it probably doesn’t make more sense then your earlier points. So, before you call others, who are making sense, Amei HaAratzio, try getting a Rebbi to teach you some Torah! Good luck.

  19. We have a chiyuv to be dan l’chaf zchus and assume that he is an ehrliche yid who does all his business honestly as a Jew should. The fact that he plead guilty to anything doesn’t change this. Unfortunately, when dealing with US court system sometimes it is necessary for innocent people to plead guilty in order to avoid worse repercussions.

  20. #21 calls others amaratzim, and says that he knows the halachos of mesirah, and then continues to claim that it is mesira to plead guilty about yourself!

    There’s an old Confucius saying: “Finding an article on the internet does not make you a talmid chochom.”

  21. #21 says (3) none of you understand the halacha of mesirah– this false tzidkuss is nothing more than a great chilul hashem- so says the Shulchan Aruch

    Then proceeds to cite Rav Shechter, instead of citing a shulchan aruch.
    Well, far be it from me to argue with Rav Shechter, and I have no awareness that anyone does argue with this psak–but it is not quite b’feirush in the shulchan aruch.

    1. The shulchan aruch is talking about paying money.
    2. The shach and nesivos (citing I think rashal) say it is only where there is a חשש for ביטול קיומם of the yidden. I don’t know what bitul kiyuman means, but if it means expulsion, I’m not too concerned about it. It also somewhat undermines the idea that it is about chillul hashem, and makes it seem more about not getting expelled–although I note that shulchan aruch does say “chillul hashem.”

    I ain’t saying that isn’t the halacha. And I ain’t saying I have a proof against it. Alls I’m saying is that I won’t be too astonished if other poskim disagree.

  22. #29:
    Yes, that is the sif that Rav shechter cites. Good reading.

    And as I note, it is talking about paying money, and is also only in a case where there will be “bitul kiyum”–whatever that means.