In response to an increase in antisemitic acts, particularly those in the City of New York, the NYPD Shomrim Society has developed the “Safe Shabbat” program. On Friday, July 16, at 6:30 p.m., just ahead of Friday evening services, members of the NYPD Shomrim Society joined with Rabbi and Rebbetzin Zakutinsky’s Hashevaynu on 72nd Drive in Kew Gardens Hills for the inaugural installation of their Safe Shabbat initiative, where representatives spoke on the importance of safety in our communities, denouncing anti-Semitism, and the importance of working together as a community to fight hate at all levels.
The Queens 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 one percent 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 HaShanah 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 towards 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. Rabbi Yehuda Zakutinsky commenced services with a welcome and “thank you” to NYPD Shomrim Society 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 anti-Semitism, and discussed the need for every New Yorker to denounce hate in all forms. Captain Kevin Chan, Commanding Officer of the 107th Precinct, urged congregants to be aware of their surroundings and not hesitate to dial 911 when in an emergency situation. As presentations concluded, a “Safe Shabbat” was declared and the congregation welcomed in the Sabbath with beautiful Friday night prayers. The group was also joined by Neighborhood Coordination Officers and current Shomrim Society president Gary Marcus.
By Shabsie Saphirstein