Rabbi Alvin Kass, 87, the Chief Chaplain of the New York City Police Department, is the longest serving chaplain in the history of the NYPD. In his 57 years as a chaplain, he has counseled law enforcement officers of all faiths and won the right for Jewish police officers to observe various tenets of their religion, including not working on the Sabbath and major Jewish holidays. He is also spiritual director of the Shomrim Society, the organization of Jewish Police Officers. In April, he received New York University’s Eugene J. Keogh Award for Distinguished Public Service. Kass lives in Manhattan.
For the full list of this year’s “36ers” — which honors leaders, entrepreneurs and changemakers who are making a difference in New York’s Jewish community — click here.
How does one become a police chaplain?
I began my career as a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force, following my schooling at Columbia University where I received a BA and MA, a PHD from NYU and rabbinic ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. I also hold a Doctor of Divinity degree from JTS. I am currently adjunct professor of philosophy at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. I am the rabbi emeritus of the East Midwood Jewish Center in Brooklyn, where I served as senior rabbi for 36 years. My first pulpit in NY was at the Astoria Center of Israel in Long Island City.
Tell us about one of your proudest accomplishments.
I was among the first to respond after 9/11 and comforted the families of the 23 police officers who lost their lives on that occasion. I also conducted High Holy Day services at LaGuardia Airport for emergency workers who had come from all over the country to assist after the terrorist attacks.
Who is your New York Jewish hero?
Rabbi Robert Gordis, the late professor emeritus of bible and philosophy at JTS.
What’s a fun/surprising fact about you?
I am an avid jogger and swimmer.
How does your Jewish identity or experience influence your work?
I feel that one of my principal responsibilities is to strive for Jewish unity as well as the unity of all peoples. The bible says that all humanity began with a single person. That means all human beings are brothers and sisters. The main responsibility for a spiritual leader is to bring all people closer together, including those of your own faith. I feel particularly proud that the Shomrim Society embraces Jews of all backgrounds and points of view. The organization is a paragon of the unity that ought to bind all Jews together.
Was there a formative Jewish experience that influenced your life path?
The summers I spent as a teenager at Camp Ramah filled me with the drive to impart the beauty and profundity of Judaism to all people.
Do you have a favorite inspiring quote?
“If you only know one religion, you don’t know any.” — Ari Goldman
What is your favorite place to eat Jewish food in New York?
Jerusalem Steak House in Brooklyn
What is your favorite book about New York?
“The Chief” by Albert Seedman
In one sentence, what was your best experience as a Jewish New Yorker?
Joining in the Shomrim Society’s distribution of food packages to poor Jews on the Lower East Side
What are three spots in NYC that all Jewish New Yorkers should visit?
1. The Museum of Jewish Heritage
2. Jewish Children’s Museum
3. Center for Jewish History
Anything else you’d like us and our readers to know about you?
I am a proud father of three and grandfather of three. Until her death in 2017, I was married for 54 years to Miryom Kass, who taught music and mathematics at the Rabbi Harry Halpern Day School in Brooklyn. Additionally, I am an avid Yankees fan.
How can people follow you online?
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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