It is strictly forbidden to moser [inform the non-Judaic authorities on] either a Jewish person or his property. One who mosers a Jewish person or his property has no share in the world to come. (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat, 388)
Jewish code snarls probe into Crown Heights attack
BY LARRY McSHANE
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Friday, May 9th 2008, 4:00 AM
Long before the first rapper stopped snitching or any Mafiosi swore an oath of omertà, there was the Jewish law of mesira.
The tenet that forbids Jews from informing on fellow Jews is one of the hurdles facing Brooklyn prosecutors probing the April 14 attack on a black man by two Jewish men, sources told the Daily News.
Authorities - invoking a complaint long cited in cases involving rappers - said the initial probe was hindered by the local Hasidim's refusal to cooperate.
One source suggested the Orthodox community was taking a page from the rap world's "stop snitching" handbook. But it was actually lifted directly from the Code of Jewish Law.
"The Hebrew word is mesira, which means basically you are not allowed to be an informant," said Rabbi Shea Hecht, a well-known figure in Crown Heights.
"In essence, I am not allowed to snitch, period."
The attack in Crown Heights led Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes to empanel an investigative grand jury to try to shake loose reluctant witnesses. It's the same technique prosecutors tried unsuccessfully in the slaying of rapper Busta Rhymes' bodyguard in 2006.
Rhymes and about 50 other witnesses refused to cooperate with cops. Their decision was based on street cred. The slaying remains unsolved.
When college student Andrew Charles was attacked in Crown Heights by two men wearing yarmulkes last month, police quickly identified a suspect - the driver of the getaway SUV.
Menachem Ezagui came to the 71st Precinct stationhouse with a lawyer after the vehicle was discovered. Police sources said he refused to answer any questions.
Charles, 20, the son of a city cop, was walking on Albany Ave. when a bicycle-riding assailant sprayed him with Mace. The SUV then pulled up, with a second man jumping out to smash the college sophomore twice with a nightstick, police said.
Cops have made no arrests. A lawyer sought to broker a deal that would have led two Jewish suspects to surrender on reduced charges. Sources said the district attorney's office rejected the deal, insisting the attack was too severe.
According to Hecht, mesira is not an all-encompassing concept - common sense supersedes the law, as does the responsibility of preventing injury to others. "You're not allowed to stand on the blood of your brother," he said.
That comes with a loophole, too. If Jews are convinced that one of their own will not get a fair shake from authorities, they have no obligation to cooperate.
"There are double standards - sometimes they work to your advantage," Hecht said. "To think there's no political element to justice in America would be foolish."