Lakewood rabbi charged with threatening cops at illegal bonfire
LAKEWOOD — A rabbi who is suing Gov. Phil Murphy over his pandemic stay-home orders was arrested Monday after police accused of him of getting physical with cops who came to shut down a bonfire attended by about 30 people.
Details of the charges against Rabbi Yisrael Knopfler, 45, were revealed in a copy of the criminal complaint obtained by New Jersey 101.5.
Police had responded to a report of a large gathering at the rabbi's home on Central Avenue. Police said they found people standing around a barrel fire in the backyard.
Police said Knopfler shouted at the officers to get off his property and threatened them with a garden hose.
Monday was the Jewish holiday Lag B’Omer, which marks the passing of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, according to the website Chabad.org. It is usually celebrated with outings, bonfires and parades.
Knopfler was warned by officers not to put his hands on them and to step out of their way, according to the complaint. He disregarded the warning and picked up a large metal tent post, which police took away from him, according to the complaint. Officers said Knopfler continued to block their path and "chest bumped" a cop.
Officers said that after Knopfler was told he was being arrested, he dropped to the ground and stiffened his arms in order to prevent being cuffed. Police said the rabbi refused to walk to a police vehicle or to get into the car without being forced to do so.
A video posted on the YouTube channel of Lakewood-based First Amendment Activist shows Knopfler on the ground surrounded by police.
The video was replaced by a shorter video on Wednesday. In the original video, a man accuses police of "beating the hell out of a rabbi" and the crowd shouts "Gestapo," "Nazi" and "anti-Semite" as Knopfler is placed into the police vehicle.
Knopfler was charged with obstruction, resisting arrest and violating the governor’s executive order by having a gathering of 10 or more, all disorderly person’s offenses.
Knopfler has an appearance in Superior Court in Toms River on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.
Knopfler joined Essex County priest Kevin Robinson to sue the state in federal court over the shutdown orders. The religious leaders say the order is a violation of their First Amendment rights to practice religion.
The Ocean County Prosecutor's Office would not comment further on the incident. Knopfler's attorney did not respond to New Jersey 101.5's request on Wednesday for additional comment.
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