Jewish leaders meet with NYPD  brass
Jewish leaders meet with NYPD brass Emes Productions

Responding to the increasing number of anti-Semitic attacks carried out against Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn, a security meeting convened by the Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition Flatbush Shomrim, Flatbush Hatzoloh and City Councilman Chaim Deutsch created a forum for high ranking members of the NYPD and Brooklyn’s elected officials to hear from members of the Jewish community and better understand their concerns.

The meeting took place on September 26th at the OHEL building in Flatbush, with distinguished local rabbis, community and shul leaders, heads of major local organizations and yeshiva administrators in attendance.

Among those who turned out to take part in the communal safety conversation were NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan, NYPD Deputy Chief of Patrol Brooklyn South Charles Scholl, Commanders of the 61, 63, 66 and 70 police precincts, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, Executive Director Deborah Lauter of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recently created Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes, State Senator Simcha Felder, Assembly members Helene Weinstein and Simcha Eichenstein and City Council members Farah Louis, Kalman Yeger and Chaim Deutsch.

Deutsch noted that anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York City are up 56 percent over the same time period last year and discussed various preventive initiatives including educating public school students about the impact of hate crimes, installing new security cameras, increasing police presence on local streets and expanding the NYPD’s auxiliary program to provide extra safety at all houses of worship.

“This hate needs to stop,” said Deutsch. “We cannot go on like this. Our community is being targeted and this needs to stop.”

Chief Monahan, District Attorney Gonzalez and Executive Director Lauter all addressed the gathering, emphasizing their unwavering commitment to putting an immediate end to this growing problem, both during the high holiday season and throughout the year. Chief Monahan noted that the NYPD takes hate crimes very seriously, with a dedicated task force headed by Deputy Inspector Mark Molinari giving its full attention to reported bias crimes.

Extra manpower will be on the streets during the upcoming yomim tovim, said Chief Monahan, who announced a new pilot program to have community members trained as auxiliary police officers in order to have protection in every local shul. Acknowledging the community’s feelings of concern and his office’s responsibilities for ensuring public safety, District Attorney Gonzalez described the different types of people who commit hate crimes, noting that all cases will be treated with the utmost significance, with perpetrators to face stiff consequences.

Taking a proactive stance on the rise in hate crimes, Executive Director Lauter spoke about the importance of understanding why hate crimes are occurring and what can be done to put an end to the disturbing trend. As head of the City Hall’s newest office, whose creation was facilitated in a large part by Deutsch, Executive Director Lauter explained her plans to launch educational and culturally sensitivity programming in schools and in other communities to promote tolerance and respect as a means of preventing anti-Semitic incidents.

Community leaders asked pointed questions, expressing their concerns and bringing to light specific needs of the Orthodox Jewish community that may be different than those of other demographics. Also discussed was the importance of a heightened NYPD presence around the clock, particularly once Daylight Savings Time ends, and adults, the elderly and even children are walking darkened city streets as they go to work, shul and school.

Shomrim coordinator Bob Moskovitz urged community leaders to attend the NYPD’s monthly Precinct Council and quarterly Build The Block meetings, where the Neighborhood Community Officers assigned to specific areas in each precinct are on hand to address local issues and freely share their contact information so that they can be of greater assistance.

Chief Monahan observed that this meeting is a prime example of gatherings that bring law enforcement, the district attorney's office, elected officials and community leaders together and are invaluable vehicles for addressing serious matters.

“It’s meetings like this, getting together with our cops who are out there every day and the community leaders representing everyone,” said Chief Monahan. “We all stand together in the fight against hate with all the elected [sic] that are here [and] the mayor’s new office of hate crimes. This is exactly what we need,” said Chief Monahan.

Moskovitz echoed those thoughts, noting that all of the right agencies were present in the room, setting the stage for positive developments.

“The police chief and the four local commanding officers of the community heard the community’s concerns and they are taking them seriously,” said Moskovitz. “I think this will take things a notch higher and I hope that when everyone puts their heads together they will come up with the right answers, although it will take some time to see results.”

Hatzolah coordinator Zelig Gitelis said that he hopes that the conversations had during the meeting will spark solutions to the fears that have blanketed the Flatbush community.

“The fact that we could see representation from the NYPD as high up as Chief Monahan, with all of the commanding officers, the Brooklyn district attorney and his senior staff and officials from the mayor’s office was reassuring and we hope that as we proceed further things will get better,” said Gitelis.

Prospect Park Bnos Leah’s Rabbi Akiva Kelman observed that many who came to the meeting were concerned with a perceived lack of NYPD presence in their neighborhoods and want to see a more visible display of police resources on their streets.

“It was a large showing from the entire Flatbush community - Chasidish, Litvish, Sefardi and Ashkenazi communities,” remarked Rabbi Kelman. “It was a real demonstration of unity to the NYPD.”

Rabbi Kelman found the meeting, which introduced many in attendance to the NYPD’s community policing style for the first time, to be very productive. As one of Flatbush’s largest schools, with a student body of over 900, Prospect Park has been receiving regular visits from an NCO from the NYPD’s 61 Precinct.

“Many of the people at the meeting from smaller schools and shuls had never even heard of an NCO before and were unfamiliar with the NYPD’s community policing style,” noted Rabbi Kelman.

In an effort to foster interaction with the NYPD and elected officials, the FJCC will be working with precinct commanders and community partners to spread word of upcoming local NYPD and Community Board meetings.

Area residents are strongly urged to attend these meetings, which are open to the general public, and provide an opportunity for the local community to make its voice heard. Further highlighting the ongoing partnership between the NYPD and the Flatbush community, the FJCC, Flatbush Hatzolah and Flatbush Shomrim recognized Lieutenant Ira Jablonsky with an award of excellence for his integral role in the warm and productive relationship that exists between law enforcement and local residents.

“We are grateful to our many community and government partners. This well attended and timely leadership meeting with a respectful and honest dialogue will bring about positive change,” said FJCC chairman Josh Mehlman. “We know that G-D is the ultimate protector, and we pray that the officers and government officials stay safe and make the right decisions to foster peace and justice.”

FJCC co-founder Chaskel Bennett called on the assembled agencies to take action against the alarming rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes which has created an undercurrent of fear in Brooklyn’s Jewish community.

“We are worried and the concerns here are real,” said Bennett. “We, as a community are hurting and we all have the responsibility to keep our community safe. Flatbush is incredibly fortunate to have all the key stake holders, law enforcement, elected officials and community leadership working together as partners, all on the same page, something no one should take for granted.”