Yes, you read that header correctly.

Hakerem Wine and Liquor is an extraordinarily popular frum-owned Kew Gardens Hills destination for a variety of alcoholic beverages that often grace our Shabbos tables and shul kiddushim. This past Sunday at 5:40 p.m., the scene inside this establishment, just off Jewel Avenue and Main Street, was one of shock and awe. A man donning a mask, leaving his features indiscernible, brazenly walked in, brandishing a firearm and demanding the cash from the register.

The 107th police precinct wasted no time responding to the scene, noted Sarah Shalek, a close friend of the owner. “The NYPD took the camera footage, but admittedly did not seem too hopeful on finding the robber,” said Shalek. “Thank you, Hashem, for keeping my dear friend safe. We are grateful that no personal possessions were taken; and when put in such a situation, one must know never to resist.” The store owner, as well, was simply thankful that nobody sustained an injury during the ordeal.

According to a Shmira phone operator, an unverified tip had come in minutes before the robbery that a masked individual was lurking on Jewel Avenue. Shaya Lloyd, a Coordinator for Queens Borough Safety Patrol Shmira, hurried over as soon as he received an alert on the popular Citizen App. Lloyd explained, “CCTV footage displays this audacious robbery and the ease of the money transferring from a smart, calm clerk to the shameless perp. The burglary lasted barely two minutes, and cash was all the thief was apparently after; nobody else was present during the theft.” The Shmira team continuously works hard to alert the public to always remain vigilant and aware of their surroundings. Their safety patrol team regularly conducts neighborhood patrols on foot and by vehicle.

In the days following the incident, some nearby stores have taken up preventive measures. Olam Realty operates next door to the wine shop and now keeps their door locked and is looking into installing a front-door buzzer. Its owner, Shlomo Meirov, expressed his concern: “It is extremely saddening that we live in a time where we have no choice but to upgrade our security measures.” Another Olam employee, who had left mere minutes before the episode, expressed feelings of shock: “It is a very uneasy sentiment to know that such ruthless individuals prowl on our streets.”

The employees at Safra Judaica stated, “The Jewish people are not safe anywhere. Such an incident is a sign that we are in galus and far from our home of Eretz Yisrael. Hashem finds ways to awaken us with a slap in the face as a reminder that we are still in exile.”

David Levystone, the sales representative at J & Z Couture, explained that he is of French origin and has lived in many cities across the world. “Anti-Semitism has afflicted many regions where I have resided. It is a trend that is slowly making its way through America and specifically onto the streets of New York City. Nonetheless, I feel safest in our city, as the police respond in force unlike other areas of the world. America is simply a paradise.”

Aharon of Pizza Professor wasted no time removing the good luck dollar bills from his store’s walls. “We will not be taking any chances and will now be locking our outer climate doors at closing. Motion sensors will soon be coming up around the outside of the facility along with flood lights for our parking area. Security is of utmost importance and the store owner should act in solidarity on this issue.”

The Vital Med Pharmacy owners revealed that they will be installing a panic alarm. “We can never be too safe, especially in a pharmacy where medications are just as vulnerable as other valuables. Our store will soon be selling pepper spray, so our customers can purchase a small manner of self-defense when faced with fear.”

The manager at Suhag Wine and Liquor mentioned that the last incident involving a gun happened at the deli two stores away over a decade ago on a Friday night. At that time, a decision was made to close at 10 p.m., especially on quiet Friday evenings. “Suhag management is very sorry to learn of this unfortunate occurrence. We will be installing outdoor cameras, adding further measures to our security system already in use. We encourage all of our neighbors to download the Citizen App as a means of awareness. In the last number of years, credit card sales have risen sharply, especially with the addition of ApplePay. Many are just not using cash like they used to, and we are adjusting to the new trends.”

Rabbi Yaniv Meirov, CEO of the Chazaq Organization, which also has their operation next door, expressed his concern: “It is astonishing how many acts of hatred have plagued the Jewish world. This robbery forces us to open our eyes wider and always be aware of our surroundings.”

As for Hakerem, Anthony Gabrielli, an eight-year veteran in the kosher wine business and now an employee at the Jewel Avenue store, shed light onto actions they will be taking. “The staff of Hakerem is extremely appreciative of all the calls for concern and support that we have received from neighborhood locals. It is a reassuring outlook to know that the community stands behind us. Looking ahead, we will be installing more visual signage as well as putting into place other security measures.”

Members of the community were quick to note that the recent bail reform does not help the situation of criminals on our streets, as many do not fear strong enough repercussions even if they were apprehended. The NYPD pledged to increase patrols in the area and continue to work together with the community, as safety is a joint responsibility.

The community should never hesitate to reach out to Shmira’s tip line, as their safety patrol is a vital source for our community’s security.

 By Shabsie Saphirstein

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