I am writing this letter with respect to a complaint filed against me by Rich Siegel and returnable before the Teaneck Municipal Court. The purpose of this letter is to publicly apologize to Mr. Siegel for my conduct. I have asked Mr. Siegel to drop all criminal charges against me, as well as the right to file a civil complaint against me, and he has graciously agreed to recommend to the prosecutor that all charges be dropped.
In spring 2011, while walking my dog, I noticed pro-Palestine bumper stickers on a car parked at a private home. These bumper stickers upset me. On one occasion, I came in contact with Rich Siegel, owner of the car and home. I accused him of being an anti-Semite.
Early on Saturday morning, Nov. 5, 2011, I stopped in front of Mr. Siegel’s home and shouted an obscenity. I was later advised that not only was Mr. Siegel at home but that his wife and daughter were, too, and that my behavior caused them alarm and distress. When Mr. Siegel called the police and sent them after me, I told them that shouting this obscenity was my right as free speech, and compared it to Mr. Siegel’s right to place bumper stickers on his car.
My behavior was wrong on many levels. Obviously it is wrong for a rabbi, or for anyone, to shout obscenities at a private home for any reason. It was wrong to assert that this activity qualifies as free speech. And it was wrong for me to call Mr. Siegel an anti-Semite.
While I am a dedicated Zionist, I recognize that during the entire history of Zionism there have been many Jews opposed to Zionism. Zionism and Judaism are not the same thing. Opposing Zionism or supporting the Palestinian people does not necessarily make a person an anti-Semite.
It has come to my attention that this incident is just the most recent that Mr. Siegel has been made to suffer, including harassment by others and vandalism to his car. I feel this is very wrong. I appeal to the local Jewish community to realize what I have come to understand: that although Mr. Siegel’s views are very different from most of ours, he has the right to them, and the right to express them, while living in our community unmolested and without fear of harm to his family.