21 thoughts on “Orthodox Seattle Rabbi Kills Pedestrian, Serves No Time – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. Why does your header say “Orthodox Rabbi” , or “Rabbi” at all? What does that have to do with anything? What would you say if your local newspaper ran a headline something like “Drunk Mexican driver guilty of hit and run accident?”

  2. As a non-motorist myself, I very much appreciate this post, but the incident described here is not exactly unique. More often than not, motorists who kill pedestrians in America get off without any punishment at all (and maybe it’s that way in other countries as well). I’m not sure what can be done to change this situation, given that America worships the car and puts the motorist on a pedestal.

    I see that Nakata was killed while crossing a street via a crosswalk. This raises a very important point: it is simply false that crossing at a crosswalk is safer than jaywalking.

    If it were up to me, Schwartz would have to forfeit his driving privileges for the rest of his life. Driving is very much a privilege, and not a right.

  3. Bar Kochba: But there are countless headlines such as “Catholic Priest Accused of Molestation,” “Rabbi Accused of Embezzlement,” etc. Schwartz got out of jail time BECAUSE he took advantage of his rabbinical title to claim to the judge that he played an indispensable leadership role in his Orthodox community. The judge bought this bull. Hence the fact that he was a rabbi was integral to the story. If he was not a rabbi he would have done jail time.

  4. Schwartz got out of jail time BECAUSE he took advantage of his rabbinical title to claim to the judge that he played an indispensable leadership role in his Orthodox community.

    I didn’t see anything in the article that said that he did that, but that is almost an aside. These stories happen daily. It doesn’t make or mean that it is right, but the story is not unusual.

    The question is what is an appropriate punishment.

  5. As a person who came within several centimeters of being struck – hard – by a car driven by a speeding Hasidic driver (a teacher in a near-by yeshiva) who decided to do a quick turnaround in the small parking lot of my antiques business, simply swerving in and swerving out with incredible reckless disregard before speeding away, I am more than sympathetic with the members of the Nakata family. The victim is no less dead than if he had been gunned down, and given the driver’s history, I think permanent revocation of license should be the least of it; he should do hard time in prison, if you ask me. Often, it seems to me, holy men of whatever persuasion do tend to get gentle legal treatment, whether their offense is pedophilia or vehicular homicide.

    Andy has written, “(and maybe it’s that way in other countries as well.)” I only know a bit of one other country’s vehicular laws, France, where I worked for several years. One of my colleagues was a lovely young lady, highly intelligent, educated, upstanding. Driving home at dusk one time at slow speed during a steady drizzle, she struck and killed an elderly man who had stepped off the curb in the middle of a block right into the path of her car. In accordance with standard judicial practice in such a case, she was guilty until proven otherwise. She went through unmitigated hell, and many testimonies, witnesses, and legal arguments later, she was finally exonerated of her “crime”. In France, at least at that time, the pedestrian reigned supreme. This is of course only one limited example, but I completely agree with Richard Silverstein’s observation that “Schwartz got out of jail time BECAUSE he took advantage of his rabbinical title to claim to the judge that he played an indispensable leadership role in his Orthodox community.” Inconvenient though it may be, Tatsuo Nakata is still dead through the indifference or recklessness or carelessness of a repeat-offender driver – period.

  6. If I made the laws, Ephraim Schwartz would be prohibited from ever driving a motor vehicle again. He can walk, or he can take the bus, but he would not ever drive again. This would perhaps inconvenience him, but that is a small price to pay. He would be warned (in advance) that if he ignored the sentence and drove again ( and if he were caught doing so ) then it would be life in prison with no chance of parole, and he would have to work hard to more than earn his keep so that he would not be a burden on taxpayers. But, in fact, Ephraim Schwartz will be driving again in two years, if not sooner, and I expect to read another story about him driving recklessly again.

  7. I’m sorry that this happens everywhere. I don’t think that any religious accoutrement or title should spare somebody from justice. I can bend for first timers, but this stretches it too far. This goes for court officers and politicians and their families.

  8. Why does anybody talk on the phone while driving? Studies have shown that it impairs your judgment and response as much as alcohol.

    I’m staying out of the whole ‘he’s a rabbi so he got off’ controversy. Just had to pipe up about phoning and driving. Pull over if the call is that damned important.

  9. Jack: There is much more about this in the pages of our local Jewish paper, the JTNews. That’s where the “special pleading” by Schwartz & his community on his behalf happened. I’m sure those 100 ltrs. written to the court in his favor document my claim quite fully.

  10. I live in Israel. Reason? First: Jerusalem is, as Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan alav ha shalom put it, “the eye of the universe.” Second: I believe that in order to be qualified to render a credible opinion on the “Arab-Israeli conflict,” it is critical to have one’s feet on Israeli soil. Otherwise, we render ourselves armchair politicians.

    I came to this conclusion in November, 2005 while touring Israel with a solidarity mission from the Seattle Kollel, where I was a student. The leader of our mission trip: Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz.

    Now: I would like to applaud the comment above that quotes, “There but for the grace of G-d go I.” I shudder to think how many near-misses happen every minute on our streets and highways.

    And: I think I am better qualified to comment on this matter than many, since I am a survivor of a near-fatal bicycle-versus-automobile accident. I still have epileptic seizures as a result of the brain injury I suffered in that accident over 40 years ago.

    In fact, it was Rabbi Schwartz and his family who took me into their home during a time when I was very sick from my seizure disorder and without housing. Along with my seizure detection dog, a large and harmless German Shepherd, of whom the Schwartz children were so frightened they would not come downstairs. Because I was in need, I was taken care of. By Rabbi Schwartz and his family. They sacrificed half of their house for over a month so that I could have a warm dry place where I was welcome and treated like a valued human being.

    As a direct result of that care and kindness, I was able to get my life back on track. To get the medical help I needed. To get healthy again. To make Aliyah to Israel. To live my principles in real life.

    No, Rabbi Schwartz’s many, many acts of kindness will not bring back the man he accidentally killed with his vehicle. And I’m certainly not trying to minimize the seriousness of the crime, or make any comment whatsoever on the process of justice in the case. I’m not trying to minimize his previous driving record, or pass judgement on whether he should or should not be allowed to drive.

    I’m not a judge. Not even an armchair lawyer.

    I am, however, a life that Rabbi Schwartz has directly helped to save with his goodness and kindness. If that counts for anything.

    And by the way–there are many others whose lives have been literally salvaged by Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz. Some of them are among the other 99 people who wrote letters on his behalf.


    Liebe Faiga
    Jerusalem, Israel

    1. honestly “chick” i will speak against this because i think you would feel as others did if you knew the guy!
      what if he was your family member?

  11. I believe that in order to be qualified to render a credible opinion on the “Arab-Israeli conflict,” it is critical to have one’s feet on Israeli soil. Otherwise, we render ourselves armchair politicians.

    That is quite a naive & ill-informed opinion which I utterly reject. Kol Yisrael arevim zeh ba-zeh. We are all interconnected. I care about Israel therefore I will write about it.

    Clearly, Rabbi Schwartz treated you with utmost kindness & truly observed the mitzvah of showing gmilut chesed to you. I don’t doubt the fine good deeds he has performed on behalf of you & others. But would he have done so if the sufferer’s name was Tatsuo Nakata? Of course not. And why not? Which goes to the issue of why Rabbi Schwartz & his community seem to believe that Mr. Nakata’s life is worse less than their own Jewish lives. Why should the rabbi receive special treatment merely because he is dedicated to helping Jews? Think how many people Mr. Nakata could have helped had he lived. Why should I give more weight to the former than the latter?

    No one can know how he or she would react were they in Schwartz’s shoes, but I think if it were I, I would think that I had a proper punishment coming to me & I would try to accept it rather than organizing an entire community to prevent my receiving a proper punishment. I don’t know why Judge Hollifield decided to let Schwartz off so lightly, but clearly he was deeply impacted by the campaign on Schwartz’s behalf. And this campaign helped Schwartz but hurt both the Nakata family & the impression of the Jewish community in the greater Seattle community. We look like a group that only looks out for its own & cares little for the damage our members inflict on non-Jews.

  12. What’s more troubling is that some members of his congregation bought a car to replace the one he wrecked in this accident. A driver or stack of pre-paid taxi fares would have been a smarter idea. What are we to make of a community that cares so little as to enable him to continue in his irresponsible ways?

  13. Yes, Paul that’s precisely right. It’s like giving a guy another gun after he’s shot & killed someone. In addition, Raining in Ktula has uncovered research that Schwartz has had TEN moving violations in THREE states since 1999! He’s a driving time bomb just waiting to explode yet again.

  14. ok i know it seems wierd for someone my age to be commenting so late but ive done alot of research on this and it really upsets me. I’ve really thought about what paul said and if he got a new car, can i have my uncle back? no i cant so what the hell? he did not deserve a car better yet he didnt deserve nothing and why does Liebe Feiga from Jerusalem talk about him taking her in? what does that have to do about anything?! its true that he shouldve got jail time he deserves it and better yet bringing his pregnant wife to court to soften the judge up. oh boo-hoo your wifes pregnant big deal? do i seem harsh? i dont care the matter is that schwuartz got away with killing my uncle that i cared about and for him to get away with it? i dont think so. so schwuartz must be happy that he got away with it. im not racist or anything i just think we need a better justice system!

    1. I don’t think you’re racist. But I do think that the defenses of Schwartz by members of his Jewish community were heartless. I am so sorry for your loss and wish that Rabbi Schwartz could be removed from our streets, at least as a driver, for the rest of his life. It’s the least the State could do. But the judge refused to do even that. It was a horrible verdict.

        1. If I were you I would note when he’s up for re-election & campaign against him. Write ltrs. to the newspaper telling the world about the miscarriage of justice he allowed. Judges like that should be thrown out of office.

          1. i understand completely, i think he got off to easy and shouldve got a longer time.

  15. its about time for tatsuos birthday in july. so i want to hear from some of you. never forget him, hes helped us all weither you realize it or not. email: kayladoggy at hotmail dot com

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