As U.S. District Judge Margaret Morrow contemplated federal law from her bench Wednesday, more than a dozen ultra-Orthodox Jewish men watched. One held open a gilt-edged, elaborately embossed copy of the Shulchan Aruch, a book of Jewish law, tracing lines of the Hebrew text with his finger.
Appearing before the judge was Rabbi Moshe Zigelman, 64, a devout Hasid who was refusing to testify before a federal grand jury, citing an ancient Jewish principle that forbids informing on other Jews.
Zigelman was ordered to testify in a tax-evasion case involving his Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Hasidic sect Spinka. He had earlier invoked the same principle, known as mesira, when he pleaded guilty to his part in the scheme in 2008. He was sentenced to two years in prison.
On Wednesday, Morrow heard arguments on whether Zigelman should be found in contempt of court for his refusal and once again be sent behind bars until he testifies. Morrow said she would rule later.