California Rabbi fined $6000 for reporting synagogue vandalism to police

“This decision empowers vandals to continue to interfere with sacred religious practices without fear of accountability,” says First Liberty lawyer.

By World Israel News Staff

A California judge fined an Orthodox Jewish rabbi over $6,000 last week for reporting the vandalism of his synagogue to the police, reports First Liberty, a legal organization that says it is devoted to protecting the religious liberty of all Americans.

“This is an outrageous decision that penalizes a rabbi for simply reporting a crime that he witnessed,” said Stephanie Taub, a senior counsel to First Liberty.

“The rabbi made a good faith report to police about a crime he saw taking place on his property,” she added, arguing that “this decision empowers vandals to continue to interfere with sacred religious practices without fear of accountability.”

First Liberty said that its attorneys will appeal last Tuesday’s court decision.

The incident involves the Hebrew Discovery Center, located in Woodland Hills, CA.  The center describes itself as providing “educational Jewish programming for all ages, ranging from early childhood to young professionals…utilizing a hands-on, forward-thinking approach to education.”

In October 2016, First Liberty explained, “a band of activists stormed” the center’s synagogue after the congregation “performed an ancient religious ceremony involving the kosher and humane killing of chickens,” referring to a ceremony performed on the eve of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.

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“The vandals trespassed, stole electronics, and caused thousands of dollars in damage to the property,” said the legal organization. “The rabbi witnessed the vandalism, catching some of the disturbance on video, and reported the incident to the police.”

“One person in the group was charged with vandalism, theft, and trespass,” but the case was “eventually dismissed because prosecutors did not have enough evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” according to First Liberty, which adds that following the acquittal, “the activist brought a case against the rabbi for reporting her to the police and a California judge just awarded her over $6,000.”

Noting its dismay over the fine imposed on the rabbi, the legal organization said that generally, suits brought against individuals for reporting an unproved incident are “disfavored under California law, because the state wants to encourage those who are the victims of crimes to freely communicate with law enforcement.”

It pointed out that coincidentally, the fine, stemming from an incident relating to Yom Kippur, was imposed on the eve of another major Jewish holiday, Passover, which began on Friday night.