May 17, 2024
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Former FBI Agent, Prosecutor, Star Football Cornerback, Attorney & NFL/NBA Exec Has a Bar Mitzvah

Former Yonkers resident Michael Quentin Williams recently addressed the Yonkers Police Department on how to “train law enforcement to serve better, not to police better.” At that meeting, Yonkers Police Dept. Chaplain Rabbi Mendy Hurwitz learned about Williams’ life. He was born and raised by a non-observant Jewish mother. Shortly after he was born, he was abandoned by his biological father from St. Kitts, and then abandoned by his mother’s family, who later had a change of heart. He was raised by loving maternal grandparents and supportive community members, and was further supported by educators and coaches who saw quality, promise and greatness in him, and believing in him, helped him to succeed.

Williams’ story began with his mixed-race upbringing in New York poverty. He attended and graduated from Yonkers’ Charles E. Groton High School, with activities in the National Honor Society, football, track and field, and swimming; winning admission to Boston College with a football scholarship and graduating with a bachelor of arts in economics. In the late ‘80s, Williams worked for two years as a bouncer at New York nightclubs, but prodded by a mentor, he applied to law school and graduated St. John’s University School of Law with a Juris Doctor in 1991.

Starting in 1992, for almost four years, Williams was a special agent for the FBI in New Haven, Connecticut, investigating federal criminal matters, and then worked as an assistant U.S. attorney from 1995 to 1996 as a trial attorney in the Criminal Division. He then moved into a career as an executive with the National Football League and the National Basketball Association.

At the Yonkers Police meeting conclusion, Rabbi Hurwitz asked Williams if he had any Jewish education or if he had had a bar mitzvah. The answer was no, and Rabbi Hurwitz offered a bar mitzvah if he was interested. The answer was yes. Williams recently had his bar mitzvah at the Chabad of Yonkers. Rabbi Hurwitz explained that things happen on God’s time schedule, and now was the appropriate time.

Rabbi Hurwitz draped a four fringed prayer tallit on Williams’ broad shoulders as he helped him recite the prayers and explained the significance of the tallit’s four fringes. Williams next donned the tefillin’s black boxes on his arm, and then his forehead, recited the prayers and began the Shacharit weekday prayers, led by Rabbi Hurwitz’s son, Chaim.

Concluding the morning prayers, Williams spoke to the men and women who came to honor him. Visibly moved, at times stopping to wipe tears from his eyes or recover his composure to speak, he said: “I speak at this bar mitzvah in honor of my grandparents, who changed my life. It was difficult in the beginning. For the first five years of my life, they did not accept me. My grandmother was born into foster care, and she was ashamed of the foster care in which she grew up in Chicago. Her whole life, she was always trying to please people. And when she lived in Eastchester, she felt her neighbors would be very embarrassed by the fact that she had a Black grandchild. We were not allowed to go over to their house.

“My grandfather, on the other hand … lived with her, so he had to do what she said. He wanted to embrace me. And then my [younger] brother came along when I was 6 years old, and they embraced both of us. They turned 180 degrees. So in honor of them, and in honor of the humility shown by my grandmother, in being that second mother to us and being able to embrace us, it changed my life and it changed my brother’s life.”

Williams thanked the many people who attended the bar mitzvah, including Jay Brustman, one of his mentors; members of the Yonkers Police Department; Yonkers Police Department Commissioner John Mueller; and the people who attended law school with him or served as U.S. federal attorneys.


Robert Kalfus can be reached at Kalfoto.com or (917) 379-4165.

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