NYPD’s Longest-Serving Chaplain Continues To ‘Walk Humbly With G-d”


NEW YORK (VosIzNeias) — Rabbi Alvin Kass never intended to serve as Rabbi of the NYPD. In fact the 83-year-old rabbi, whose calm disposition, warm smile and slender stature are uncharacteristic to police officers, claims that he had no police connections beforehand.

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“It’s the most unlikely of events that could have happened,” Rabbi Kass told Fox News. “I never knew a policeman. I was never in a police station. I had no ambitions to be a police chaplain. I did start my career off as an Air Force chaplain.”

Yet Kass, who is now celebrating 53 years on the force, was fortuitously chosen for the job for a marginal reason which he only found out much later.

When he got the call for the interview, he was the rabbi of a small congregation in Astoria, Queens. Originally from Patterson, N.J., Kass says he has always been New York-oriented except for his tour-of-duty in the U.S. Air Force, which took him to Lackland and then Chanute Air Force bases.

Kass didn’t take the interview seriously since he assumed that there were many rabbis more politically connected than him. In fact he even went to the station armed with his gym bag, thinking the interview wouldn’t take long. He had scheduled a handball game directly after at his local YMCA. But on his way out he was stopped by then-Chief of Detectives Al Seedman, and after a brief conversation about the gym bag, Kass was off to his game.

“All I know is that three hours later I got a call from the NYPD asking me to take the job,” Kass remembered.

It transpired that Seedman didn’t really have a clue which rabbi to pick for the police force.

“He really wasn’t sure who the right one was,” Kass says wryly. “But he saw me about to play a game of handball and he figured a rabbi who plays handball. That’s the kind of guy that ought to be the chaplain for the New York City Police Department. So that’s the reason I got the job because I play handball.”

Recalling the last 53 years, Kass says they went by in the blink of an eye but they have been filled with trials, triumphs, and challenges. Kass officiated at funerals and installations of new officers but was also once famously involved in a hostage crisis.

In 1981, Kass was called to a tense hostage situation at a midtown high-rise. He claims he was called to the scene simply because, like the hostage-taker, he was Jewish. “I spent the whole night trying to talk him out of what he was doing, and I totally failed,” Kass said. However as night turned into day, the hostage-taker became increasingly hungry and Kass successfully negotiated that he relinquish his weapon in exchange for an extra-large pastrami sandwich. Unfortunately, the hostage-taker immediately revealed a second gun.

Kass keeps kosher and therefore couldn’t eat his sandwich. On an impulse, he offered it to the hostage-taker in exchange for the second gun. Crediting luck more than anything else, Kass ultimately saved the hostage.

Kass says that another watershed event for him was the horrific 9/11 terror attack, which he says brought out the very best of people across the country.

“To me, 9/11 was absolutely transformative,” he said. “And it was an event which was absolutely horrible in its impact upon the city. And yet at the same time, so magnificent as an opportunity in which people were able to show love and compassion and sensitivity and appreciation for each other.”

At this point Kass wrote his famous Yankee Stadium invocation, a sermon for 9/11 workers and volunteers. The sermon preceded Yom Kippur and gave those in attendance the strength during the country’s weakest moment and a light in the darkest of days. But Kass humbly believes that on that day, like any other, he was doing his job, which he says is the greatest in the world.

“I love what I do,” he said. “That’s why I’ve been doing it for as long as I do. I love police officers. I’ve learned to see in them the most dedicated and most committed and the most beautiful human beings that I think I have ever met and I came to appreciate the sanctity of the profession.

“We need people who will take care of us and undergo the risks that are involved in protecting humanity. So keeping people safe and secure is dangerous. It’s difficult. It’s filled with stress and to serve such people is a great privilege.”

By breaking through religious barriers, Kass has been able to find a common thread within all faiths: being humble.

“I think the wisest words that were ever written in the Bible were ‘walk humbly with God.’ And the word humbly is where the emphasis ought to be.” The self-deprecating three-star chief, who is the the highest-ranking chaplain in NYPD history, certainly practices what he preaches.


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4 years ago


4 years ago

READ the article, he’s still alive!