The session was chaired by Rabbi Shlomo Gertzulin, Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration, who for more than a decade has served as a liaison to New York City’s Office of Emergency Management, and currently to NYPD’s Community Affairs Bureau. He said that the invitation to the police department to meet with the organization’s leadership had originally been extended to express solidarity and appreciation for their vital role in protecting the entire city, and in particular for their special attention to the security concerns of the Jewish community. Due to recent events, however, the meeting’s purpose was expanded to include a high level briefing on the global security situation with a specific focus on New York City.
Chief of Department James P. O’Neill, the NYPD’s highest-ranking uniformed official, described the turbulence of the past six weeks, since the assassination of two New York City Policemen, and the toll that it has taken on the NYPD. He expressed his appreciation on behalf of the police department for communal support and pledged to continue to do everything in the power of the department to keep New York citizens safe. Chief of Community Affairs Joanne Jaffe discussed the concern and awareness of the department to the apprehension of the community and assured the representatives that the department will be making significant efforts towards working with the diverse segments of the community. As former commanding officer of the NYPD Housing Bureau, Chief Jaffe made mention of the strong working relationship she has forged over the years with a variety of Orthodox Jewish communities.
Inspector James Kehoe, a top NYPD Counter-Terrorism Coordinator described many of the special procedures that the NYPD has put in place – many that are visible, but others that are not – to maintain its constant vigil and information gathering capabilities regarding threat levels and monitoring of terrorist groups and cells not only in New York City, but through its detectives stationed in many strategic locations around the world.
The final speaker was Minda L. Arrow, an Intelligence Research Specialist with the NYPD, who gave a thorough analysis of the worldwide terror situation and described many of the patterns and themes gathered from so many of the tragic events and killings that assist the police department counter-terrorism and intelligence efforts to prevent future attacks and keep New York City as the safest large city in the U.S.
As Rabbi Gertzulin commented, “while it is vital for our community to express our hakoras hatov to the NYPD for their round-the-clock efforts to protect each and every one of us, it was equally important for such a high-level delegation to brief our leadership on the various steps they continuously take to monitor activities of would-be-terrorists and prevent such criminal acts in New York City.” He also expressed the organization’s appreciation to Rabbi Abe Friedman, the Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for the Brooklyn Boro President, for his efforts in facilitating the meeting between Agudath Israel’s leadership and the NYPD.
A meeting participant summed it up, “Agudath Israel is working with its partners in government agencies such as the NYPD to make sure that the needs of our schools and mosdos are front and center in their efforts. On a federal level, Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel’s Vice President for Federal Affairs and Washington Director, together with regional directors around the country, continues to advocate for additional funds to this end, including increasing the Nonprofit Security Grant Program. Agudath Israel also provides assistance for yeshivos and mosdos to identify practical steps they can take to help secure their facilities.”
Agudath Israel will continue to keep the community informed on the progress and status of these and other security initiatives.