June 15, 2024
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NYPD Shomrim Society’s Safe Shabbat Program Travels to Riverdale

In response to nationwide antisemitic acts, particularly those in the City of New York, the NYPD Shomrim Society has developed the “Safe Shabbat” program. On July 23, just ahead of Friday evening services, members of the NYPD Shomrim Society joined with Rabbi Levi Shemtov at Chabad of Riverdale for the second installment of their Safe Shabbat initiative, where representatives spoke on the importance of safety in our communities, denouncing antisemitism, and the importance of working together as a community to fight hate at all levels. This shul was one of several that fell victim to an antisemitic rock-throwing spree in late April of this year. As a reminder of antisemitism, the synagogue’s administration has decided to leave an orifice in one of its walls created by a rock launched though one of its front-facing windows.

The Jewish Link spoke with Police Officer Josh Zucker, Sergeant-At-Arms with the New York Police Department’s Shomrim Society, a fraternal organization for Jewish men and women sworn to the Department. The Society began operations in 1924 under Capt. Jacob Kaminsky when just 1% of the Department was Jewish, and has consistently operated with a new president each year. The years of the Great Depression saw the largest increase at the Society, where civil service lists show 400 additional members over the years 1935-37. In recent years, the same officer has been chosen to serve two consecutive terms as president of the Society. Today, Jewish officers hold varied positions throughout the NYPD, including almost every rank. Zucker began his career with the NYPD at the start of 2015 and has consistently served the city in Brooklyn North.

“When the Shomrim Society began in 1924, the members both male and female were often of Reform or Conservative Jewish observances,” noted Zucker. “Today many more frum officers are on the job.” Zucker explained that the Society has stood true to its positions from origin to “promote the welfare of Jewish officers.”

When asked what actions the society is regularly involved in, Zucker explained the group’s outreach. “The Shomrim Society organizes a variety of social events. Most recently we had a Father’s Day picnic that was thoroughly enjoyed.”

Zucker detailed practical measures where the Society has championed rights for Jewish officers. “We have worked to help our members get off for Jewish holidays that the Department might not have noticed. For example, this year, both Labor Day and Erev Rosh Hashanah fall on Monday, September 6, but Rosh Hashana proper is on Tuesday and Wednesday. We work to make sure accommodations are made as necessary.”

Zucker took note of other Shomrim Society initiatives, including a successful Pesach food drive. “We aim to improve the lives of our brethren and give back to Jewish society.”

Regarding the rise in hate toward Jews, Zucker stated, “The world, New York State, and New York City have each seen an unwelcomed increase in anti-Semitism. There are bullies out there attacking us, and this hate should not be tolerated. To help, Lee Stanton, a Society member, offered a concept that the group embraced. Together, the Jewish police officers created ‘Safe Shabbat’ as a means to give back and make others feel safe.”

While all were gathering to usher in the holy Shabbos, NYPD Shomrim Society members showcased their unyielding commitment to making our city a safer place to live, work, and worship. NYPD Chief Chaplain Rabbi Dr. Alvin Kass commenced services by thanking Chabad of Riverdale for hosting the Shomrim Society, followed by Rabbi Shemtov who echoed Rabbi Kass’ sentiments by thanking NYPD Shomrim members for being present and for their day-to-day efforts in keeping the streets of New York City safe. Lee Stanton, NYPD Shomrim Society Board Member and “Safe Shabbat” chair, spoke on the alarming proliferation of hate crimes in our city, spotlighted antisemitism, and discussed the need for every New Yorker to denounce hate in all forms. As presentations concluded, a “Safe Shabbat” was declared and the congregation welcomed in the Sabbath with beautiful Friday night prayers.

The Society strongly believes that hate against one is hate against all. For that reason, the groups will call upon the leader in each congregation it visits to offer a prayer before the group officially declares this and every Shabbos safe with the congregation. The Society hopes that by working diligently to remind all New Yorkers that there is no place for hate in this great city, “Safe Shabbat” will bring renewed attention to the importance of ending anti-Semitism as no New Yorker should live in fear of being attacked for his or her religious expression.

The initiative’s inaugural installation was held last Friday evening, July 16, at Rabbi Zakutinsky’s Hashevaynu in Kew Gardens Hills. This week, “Safe Shabbat” is scheduled to take place at East Midwood Jewish Center in Brooklyn, where once again the group will meet in front of the shul with the rabbi and community and later join inside for davening. The program will also include Conservative and Reform sanctuaries. For more information, reach out via email to
[email protected].

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