Fact-check: ‘Der Blatt’ publishes fake letter from state police about lights and sirens

The fraudulent document, which had circulated on social media, claimed to be about an “enforcement initiative” from the New York State Police

Article in ‘Der Blatt’ containing the fake letter

Feb 23, 2024 2:40 PM


An article published this week in the Yiddish-language newspaper Der Blatt cited a letter it claimed was from the New York State Police issuing what it called a “sharp warning against civilian use” of sirens and flashing emergency lights.

Turns out, that was completely fake news. 

The fraudulent document, which first circulated on WhatsApp and other social media, had the New York State Police emblem on it and was addressed to residents of Orange County. The fake letter claimed that “unauthorized” lights and sirens were causing “serious risks to public safety.” 

According to Trooper Steven Nevel, public information officer for the branch of the state police that covers Orange County, the document was fake.

“This letter did not come from the New York State Police,” Nevel wrote in an email to Shtetl.

The fake letter as posted on X by KolHaolam

Der Blatt, a major Hasidic newspaper affiliated with the Aaronite Satmar faction, said the letter “issued a sharp warning against civilian use of blaring sirens and red or blue flashing lights.” Der Blatt did not immediately respond to Shtetl’s request for comment.

The letter appears to have been first published on X, formerly Twitter, by KolHaolam, an account that posts regular but unattributed news items with a particular focus on the Orthodox Jewish world. The post said, “The New York State Police is cracking down on illegal use of red and blue emergency lights in personal vehicles.” KolHaolam did not immediately respond to Shtetl’s request for comment, but the original post with the fake letter was deleted immediately after Shtetl reached out. It is not clear who created the fake letter or why.

Lights and sirens are often used by private Orthodox volunteer organizations, such as Hatzalah, an emergency medical services provider. They are also used in the motorcades of major rabbinic figures, such as the grand rabbis of larger Hasidic sects.