Security/Emergency Information

NYPD High Holiday Briefing: Increased vigilance

Michael Miller addresses
NYPD High Holiday Briefing

Unfortunately, some of it sounded familiar. At the NYPD High Holiday Briefing on September 5th, NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly reported that, once again, the Jewish High Holidays brought with them heightened threats against Jewish institutions. Fortunately, the NYPD will respond with additional coverage.

Commissioner Kelly invited Michael S. Miller, Executive VP & CEO of the JCRC-NY to speak at the briefing. Michael Miller spoke of the role that the leaders of Jewish institutions have played as partners to the police and how they can do more. He also recognized the importance of intelligence operations, which interrupted the Riverdale and Manhattan bomb plots against synagogues.

Read Michael Miller’s remarks after the jump.

Remarks of Michael S. Miller

NYPD High Holiday Security Briefing | Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Thank you, Commissioner Kelly and Chief Banks, for inviting me to say a few words this morning. I am deeply honored to be here and it is a special honor to be joined on this program by my good friend Ambassador Ido Aharoni who does an outstanding job of representing the State of Israel in the New York area. And thank you Rabbi Kass for your words of Torah and inspiration.

Before I begin my remarks, with your indulgence, I want to make two personal comments.

I first want to pay tribute to our own Sally Goodgold, who passed away a year ago. Sally’s two great passions were the NYPD and the Jewish community. She spent over thirty years on the board of the New York City Police Foundation helping to support the work of the NYPD, and she served, as well, on the JCRC board for many years and as chair our Commission on Jewish Security.  She loved coming to this event, in particular, and shepping nachas from seeing Commissioner Kelly, whom she adored, at this podium. Her presence is sorely missed, although I’m sure she’s here in spirit. May her memory continue to be a blessing.

This opportunity also has special meaning for me, personally. My late grandfather, my mother’s father, who was born in the mid-1800s just a few blocks from here on Stanton Street, as an adult lived in Hartford, CT, where he was active in civic affairs and served for a period of time as the city’s Police Commissioner – – the first and possibly only Police Commissioner of a major city in the US who was an Orthodox Jew. The family has always been proud of his role in law enforcement and I trust that, in the heaven’s, he’s proud that his einikle, his grandson, is speaking in the headquarters of the NYPD.

In 2003, the JCRC honored Police Commissioner Ray Kelly at our annual gala. To introduce the Commissioner we used the NYPD “Heroes” video that ended with James Earl Jones, in his resonant voice, describing the NYPD as, “Heroes … always heroes.” Without question, we of the New York Jewish community know exactly what we can expect from the NYPD – heroes, always heroes.

Now in our fourth decade, the JCRC has been privileged to work in partnership with the NYPD, on behalf of the Jewish community. The role of partner applies to every one of us. We should be asking ourselves, how can we in the Jewish community help our heroes to protect us? How can we best hold up our end of the partnership?

Decades ago, in the early days, that meant working with the NYPD and other advocates to help found the Bias Incident Investigating Unit, which Commissioner Kelly enhanced and renamed as the Hate Crime Task Force. In the beginning the “Bias Unit” as it was then called, was commanded by Captain Paul Donnelly, who brought with him the detectives of the Bronx Narcotics Squad. A young sergeant with promise, Joe Leake, was the XO. They were exceptional investigators, but sometimes, “sensitivity-challenged”. That did not last long. Partnering with the JCRC and other groups, the Bias Unit quickly became proficient in all aspects of their work.

As a result of that partnership, the heroes of the Hate Crimes Task Force of the NYPD continue their core mission — to send a clear message that hate crimes will not be tolerated in New York City. Police departments around the world have modeled their efforts on the pioneering, exemplary work of our heroes.

It’s easy to think that the NYPD can do anything because that is often the case. But sometimes, we can do things that the NYPD cannot. In 1980 close to 200, sifrei Torah, Torah scrolls, were stolen. The police were frustrated because even if they did recover a stolen Torah, the owner could rarely provide positive identification of the stolen Torah, so that the thief could be prosecuted. In the words of some of the senior investigators, “Those scrolls all look alike”.

Security measures are within the NYPD’s expertise — getting rabbinic authorities to agree on an issue is not. In response to a request from the NYPD, the JCRC, under the leadership of my late father ז”ל, of blessed memory, brought a broad spectrum of rabbinic authorities together with security experts to develop the Universal Torah Registry, which places an invisible-to-the-naked-eye, halachically-permissible, security code onto Torah scrolls. When the NYPD spread the word about the Universal Torah Registry, the thefts stopped. The partnership between the Jewish community and the NYPD worked beyond anyone’s expectations. There have been only a handful of Torahs stolen since then, followed by arrests and long prison sentences.

Let our heroes know

What else can we do to be the kind of partners the NYPD deserves today? Each and every one of us attending today is part of the solution. We’re here. I may be preaching to the choir, but it is up to us to spread the word.

Coming to One Police Plaza once or twice a year is not enough. We all share an obligation to build solid partnerships between our institutions and organizations and our local precincts. Each precinct has a precinct council. Leaders of our institutions should regularly attend. Contact your community affairs officer for more information.

The Community Affairs Bureau regularly sends out informational emails about incidents, anti-crime tips and more. They should have all of our email information. Subscribe for information from NYPD SHIELD, but don’t be a passive subscriber. Those emails should not stop with us; we should send them to our lists and include the information in our newsletters.

The leaders of schools, congregations and organizations should know their local precinct commanders and community affairs officers and vice versa. You should tell them when services are scheduled, how many people usually use your facility, when the kids will arrive and be dismissed, and about special events. With that kind of simple information the NYPD can take steps to better protect us.

Another suggestion for those in charge of buildings: schedule a visit to your facility and walk through it with them. Make the floor plans available to them. In the event of an emergency, those simple steps may be the difference between life and death.

Support our heroes’ efforts

Some observers note that the Jewish community – and especially New York’s Jewish community — is the most over-organized community in the world. Not only do we have organizations…we have organizations of organizations. I know this because I lead one of them.

We know the Jewish community: our quirks, our rhythms and our key players. We can provide valuable guidance to the NYPD leadership at all levels. We should consistently be asking: “How can I help?”

They know that we can, and do help. When the heroes of the NYPD look at our community, they do so with admiration. Our organizations – ranging from the community-wide reach of the UJA-Federation, the JCC’s and COJO’s  to the remarkable responders —  Hatzalah, Shomrim, Shmira, Misaskim and Chaverim — all regularly serving real people, with real needs and they do it well. When we play our roles appropriately, like when our civilian patrols are the eyes and ears of the NYPD, we help to make the NYPD more effective and our community even safer.

הכרת הטוב

Over the past year, a spate of articles have criticized and misrepresented the scope, purpose, and rationale behind many of the NYPD Intelligence Division’s programs. They confuse events and policies in ways that are misleading and cast the tale they are telling in the worst possible light.

Let there be no doubt. We are of the firm belief that the NYPD, under Commissioner Kelly’s leadership, along with his top brass, have no hidden agenda. After 9/11, the department was understandably concerned that prohibitions in the guidelines might interfere with its ability to prevent terrorist attacks. As a result, in 2002, the NYPD proposed to a federal court that the terms of the guidelines be modified; the court agreed.

The modified guidelines begin by stating a general principle: “In its effort to anticipate or prevent unlawful activity, including terrorist acts, the NYPD must, at times, initiate investigations in advance of unlawful conduct.” It goes without saying that no threat would justify the NYPD or the FBI operating in an unconstitutional manner. To date, no court has opined that they have.

Indeed, there is cause for concern and a need for a watchful eye. New York City has been the target of 18 terrorist plots or attacks since 1992 and 8 of those incidents involved Jews or Jewish targets, including the plots to bomb synagogues in Riverdale and Manhattan. Devorah Halberstam – with us today — has three grandchildren named Ari, in memory of their uncle who, in his 16th year of life, was killed in a terror attack on the Brooklyn Bridge. The NYPD believes Iranian Revolutionary Guards or their proxies have been involved so far this year in nine plots against Israeli or Jewish targets around the world. As Iran dials up its rhetoric and threats to Israelis, Jews and Americans around the world, the protection provided by the NYPD is critical.

And we are not in this alone. As the JCRC partners with the NYPD to protect the Jewish community, our inter-group relations division has a long history of working with diverse New Yorkers of all races, ethnicities and faiths – – Catholics and Protestants, Buddhists and Moslems. The threat to our city impacts on all its residents, regardless of their cultures and backgrounds. And so, we proudly stood with Mayor Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Kelly and leaders in the Moslem community when the mosque in Queens was firebombed; and they all stood with us after arrests in the Riverdale bomb plot. The NYPD and JCRC uphold a fundamental truth that working in partnership, setting aside our differences, we can all build a stronger, more vibrant, and safer New York.

Our partnerships with the NYPD should be guided by the principle of הכרת הטוב – the ongoing recognition of the good done by our heroes, the NYPD and its exemplary leaders; and the daily sacrifices made by them and their families.

The Jewish community and all New Yorkers are deeply grateful to them. At this holiest time on the Jewish calendar – and year-round — we pray for their success and their well-being. They are heroes, always heroes. They are the NYPD.

Alerts and information about security and emergency preparedness for Jewish organizations.
View all Security/Emergency Information posts