The Soul of the NYPD: A Rabbi for the Ages

Rabbi Dr. Alvin Kass, center, has served as a chaplain for 50 years at the New York Police Dept; Photo: Susan Watts/New York Daily News

Rabbi Dr. Alvin Kass, center, has served as a chaplain for 50 years at the New York Police Dept. Photo: Susan Watts/New York Daily News

This piece originally appeared as an editorial in the New York Daily News on Dec. 18.  Rabbi Kass is a member of  DC  37 who has served on the DC 37 Jewish Heritage Committee for many years.

Marvel at the collective fortitude and bravery of the NYPD — and then thank a moral force behind the force, slight as ever in his brass-buttoned uniform.

For 50 years, Rabbi Dr. Alvin Kass has served as an NYPD chaplain, and is today chief chaplain, leading an interfaith nine-clergy squad that provides constant support and succor to officers assigned to confront the very worst of humanity one day and show up again for work the next.

In a ceremony on Friday before the entirety of NYPD officialdom, Commissioner Jimmy O’Neill promoted Kass with an unprecedented-for-a-chaplain third star in recognition of his half-century of service ministering, as all police chaplains do, to officers of all faiths.

And service it has been, with boundless dedication that puts him on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week — even on the day of son Danny’s bar mitzvah, interrupted with word that a Jewish NYPD officer had been fatally shot. Kass spent the coming days consoling the bereaved family, with his own family, including devoted wife Miryom, absorbing the necessary sacrifice in public duty.

Kass calls it fateful accident that he ended up an NYPD chaplain in 1966, intrigued enough by Mayor John Lindsay to respond to a rabbinical league’s call for applicants — and grounded enough to bring his handball gear in a gym bag for a game afterward, a provident sign that got him hired virtually on the spot.

Off-scripture, Kass once traded two pastrami sandwiches from the Carnegie Deli for a hostage-takers’ guns. He has rushed to countless hospital beds and seen a bereft department through its greatest day of loss, Sept. 11.

“I’ve learned to love the police,” he recently admitted. “They’ve become the essence of who I am and central to my being.”

And the police and this city love Rabbi Kass back.

This article originally appeared in the New York Daily News.  Rabbi Kass is a DC  37 member, who has served on the DC 37 Jewish Heritage Committee for many years.

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